The Essential American: A Patriot’s Resource

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Book of the Month

The Essential American: A Patriot’s Resource, Edited by Jackie Gingrich Cushman. Regnery Publishing, Inc., 2010, 369 pp.

When the Massachusetts Delegates to the Continental Congress decreed in the Northwest Ordinance that “Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall for ever be encouraged,” they could not have predicted the extent to which a future public school system would ignore those very ideals. Today’s public schools can no longer be counted on to teach the ideas that have made the United States a great nation. When students do learn about America’s history, they are often taught a highly editorialized version in which traditional American ideals fall prey to a liberal agenda. Students need a solid grounding in the primary source documents that helped shape our nation’s history if they are to be inoculated against the sort of historical revisionism that frequently takes place in public high schools and universities.

The Essential American is an excellent resource for anyone seeking to better understand our nation’s founding and history. Edited by Jackie Gingrich Cushman, and with a forward by Newt Gingrich, the book contains 25 of the most important documents and speeches in America’s history. The included works range from Patrick Henry’s address at the second Virginia Convention in 1775, to Captain Mosley Baker’s “Remember the Alamo” speech at San Jacinto in 1836, to George W. Bush’s Congressional Address following the terrorist attacks of September 11. The book offers a good general overview of some of the most important moments in America’s history as seen through the eyes of those who lived through them.

Each document or speech is introduced with a brief essay placing the piece in its historical context. Editorial comments are fairly minimal, allowing each work to stand on its own. Some of the included documents, like the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, were obvious choices for such an anthology and need little introduction. Others, like General Douglas MacArthur’s Sylvanus Thayer Award Acceptance Address of 1962 or Jeane Kirkpatrick’s 1984 speech to the Republican National Convention, offer a look at some less well-known but important speeches.

Mrs Cushman encourages readers to further delve into the United States’ wealth of historical documents by including a timeline of significant events in American history and a computer-ready DVD featuring over a thousand additional documents not included in the book.